Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are essentially nonexistent throughout senior management and executive leadership levels in Australia, a damning, unparalleled report on Indigenous employment has revealed. 

The Indigenous Employment Index by philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation shows that Australia’s First Peoples represent just 0.7% of executive positions within the 31 employers that provided the data. Overall, more than 40 employers — including Rio Tinto, NBN, Australia Post and ANZ — took part in the report, representing 5% of the total Australian workforce.

Just two of the participating employers were ranked in the highest category for their Indigenous employment practices.

More than half, meanwhile, were categorised by the index as “making progress towards parity,” while, worryingly, almost a third fell into the lowest-performing group for their dismal share of Indigenous employees and lack of commitment to creating a more diverse workforce.

"Indigenous senior leadership is critical to elevating Indigenous voices and perspectives and supporting Indigenous employees,” the index states. “Organisations with reconciliation strategies or plans led by Indigenous leaders had more than double the share of Indigenous employees.”

Alongside examining the percentage of Indigenous employees across all levels of business, the index also delved into reports of racism. Half of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interviewees reported facing direct or indirect racism at one stage in their careers. 

"Consistent with findings from other research, many Indigenous employees feel culturally unsafe at work, meaning they cannot practice their cultural identity without discrimination, ridicule or denunciation,” the report states. “Employers have low levels of understanding of racism and how to appropriately respond to it.”

An unnamed Indigenous employee told the index, “we experience racism every single day.” 

"Because of the lack of Indigenous people that work in [my] workplace, it’s very hard,” they said. “I work with a lot of older people as well. It’s very hard for them to understand what they’re saying is racist. It’s more just, ‘oh, it’s just a comment’.”

Minderoo Foundation is using the data to call on employers, governments and investors to work toward a better future.  

The index explains that an additional 300,000 more Indigenous Australians must enter paid work by 2040 to achieve Indigenous employment parity. Employers need to set robust employment targets and work to retain current First Nations employees, while governments should report annually on progress and establish an Indigenous-led employment sector.

Institutional investors, meanwhile, must engage with investee companies and set nationwide expectations.

"This is our responsibility and opportunity to take,” the report explained.


Demand Equity

Indigenous Australians Hold Just 0.7% of Senior Management Titles in Australia

By Madeleine Keck